The Right and the Responsibility0
By Frank J. Rich
New research tells us that fully 80 percent of workers are dispassionate about their jobs. A consistent view of the workforce, also supported by annual survey research, is that roughly 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged (Shift Index-Deloitte). These are workers going through the motions of work without the initiative that fuels growth and opportunity. They are unwilling, if not unable, to make the contribution that drives initiatives, content to find fault before solutions. Those who become disgruntled in their attempts to adjust the “view” of their employers often become “actively disengaged,” a state of mind and heart that purposes to undermine the organization’s efforts.
Actively disengaged employees count for roughly 15 percent of the workforce—from top to bottom. Combined with the “disengaged,” those just going through the motions (55 percent), the majority of the workforce is dispassionate about the business of organizations and not attending to its growth objectives. When we add the average annual productivity of workers—25-75 percent—we discover what we may have already known: the majority of the work and results are the product of a very small percentage of an organization’s workforce.
If we turn the penny over, in search of solutions, two daunting realities confront us. Most people are absent the passion and both the approach and “know-how” necessary to accomplish organizational goals. Yet, it is an understanding of simple principles that equips most workers to excel at their work.
Passion is essential to the kind of performance improvement needed to succeed. The idea is deeply rooted in Seely Brown (past Xerox PARC Head) and John Hagel’s book, “The Power of Pull.” Passionate workers are engaged, productive, and contented. Why? Because we all desire the same thing: to be actively engaged in meaningful work. Passion is the path to productivity. The passion for things is as natural to the human condition as breathing. Our ultimate desire (need) is self-fulfillment. The idea that we satisfy first what is most important and gratifying to us is fundamental. We want to feel good about ourselves and about the things we are committed to. It is a realistic self-assessment and personal achievement that leads to self-esteem, and nothing less will do. So easy is the idea, that we can raise the participation of most—from children to adults—simply by giving credit to what they’ve done. Turning this inward is the next and most critical step.
Secondly, we must take hold of the means to personal growth and contribution. That requires that we practice a full-disclosure approach to all things, no less our work. This attitude frees us from corner caches that threaten clarity of purpose and practice, and that belies the talent hidden in those secret places. It is our nature to hide from the glare of our own inadequacies, failing to recognize that strengths are most often built on weaknesses. Acting out the principle of full disclosure requires only that we answer two questions: What are we doing? And why? Real agreement, that which is equipped of commitment, is only possible after these questions are answered.
In organizations of any kind and size, it is both a right and a responsibility to address any issue. When most confront the opportunity in this dictum, they retreat by the ruler of “political correctness” or a veiled sensitivity to the “presumed” feelings of another. On this principle rests the productive ability of individuals and organizations. When we do not see the organization as needing our contribution in every moment of opportunity and crisis, we are effectively failing the people around us—those (the people we work with) most agree is the primary reason they return to work each day.
Productive environments are tingling with energy over the opportunity in their work and the joy in the unique contributions of individuals and teams. It is evident from the moment we enter them. When we consign ourselves to these simple principles, extraordinary things happen, not least, a fuller sense of who we are and how we matter to the world around us. If we accept the numbers above, it may look like the conspirators are winning. If your view of the world around you does not extend beyond them, it may be time to take another look and prepare to change your perspective. The results you seek are at your fingertips and are the stuff of well-worn principles and practices. You will either see opportunity in yourself and the team assembled around you or be consigned to ignominy. It’s never too late to take up your staff and make the most of what you have. These days, if you have anything, especially a job, count it as sufficient “stakes” to start the game afresh. You’ll have an advantage over 75 percent of the workforce. And that’s a good start.
Steve Blank, a retired entrepreneur and author of “The Four Steps To The Epiphany,” said in a recent speech: “Ethics and values are not what you put in plaques or tell your employees… It’s the stuff you practice when the stuff hits the fan.” We must see the organizations of our choosing as much our own as the unique contributions we make. To live the values in both is the ultimate goal; the mere mouthing of them is disguised failure. The right and the responsibility—for all things—is your birthright and your greatest opportunity. Life and work depend on nothing less for success.